Ergonomics and proper posture in using a laptop

Okay, so it takes a little while to get used to Firefox 3’s new “Awesome bar”, and now I’m beginning to agree with the remark of commenter minor‘s wife that the new address bar in Firefox 3 could cause some added eyestrains because it spits out huge chunks of text every time you type in a URL. Still, congratulations to Mozilla and to all Firefox fans, it’s reported that we reached 8 Million downloads for Firefox 3 on Download day.

Which means there are now 7 Million users who will have to grapple with the new address bar of FF3, it’s a usability issue that I hope will be addressed in the next versions of Firefox.

Speaking of usability, ergonomics and health issues with regards to using computers and laptops, today I’d answer what friends have been asking me every time they see me using a full-sized mice with my laptop. The trend is that with desktops you should use full-sized mice while if you’re going to use a laptop and not bother with its track pad, you would use one of those mini-mice which is half the size of the regular ones, hell there are even micro or pocket-sized mice that could easily fit in one’s underpants. Case in point, Carlo’s new mini-mice for his Asus Eee PC. Cute but not for me.

I for one did not follow this convention. Simply because my right hand is too big to comfortably use a micro-mice. See the photo below?

mini-mice vs regular miceThat wireless mini-mice given to me by my uncle could easily be hidden underneath my hand, if my hand were a lot hairier it would look like a tarantula that has caught a small mice (the animal) for dinner. So I went out and bought a full-sized Optical Mice by Logitech. It’s twice the size of most mini-mice but it saves me a lot from painful wrist and finger strain or what’s properly called as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Asides from taking care of our hands and wrists, which I think are one of the most important parts of a blogger’s anatomy, Manav of reminds us of the importance of using good posture in using our computers, especially if your work or lifestyle involves using it for long periods of time.

By my reckoning, it’s written for those who use desktop computers as these are much more common and configurable because the monitor and keyboard could be adjusted separately for greater comfort.
On the other hand, for laptop users like, our situation is a bit different thus our setup is also a bit different.

A set of good ergonomic tips in using a laptop can be found in the website of The University of Ontario:

  1. Shoulders should be resting at your sides, elbows bent to 90 degrees and wrists straight. Tilt the screen to reduce neck bending and any glare.
  2. Make sure you use a light touch while keying and mousing.
  3. The armrests on your chair should not obstruct arm movements as seen in the picture to the right.
  4. Can you use secondary function or short-cut keys instead of the mouse
  5. Consider the tasks you will be working on. Raise the screen to eye level when reading lengthy documents (consider using the mouse for scrolling) or lower the keyboard to elbow level for intensive keying.
  6. Consider using the laptop as a stand alone CPU with an external keyboard, mouse and monitor. If the notebook screen is large, raise the entire computer to eye level and use an external keyboard and mouse.
  7. If you are working at a table that is too high for proper keying, try tilting the laptop towards you using an empty binder. Reclining your seat slightly will help to improve arm postures. Tilting the laptop will also help to raise the screen closer to eye level.
  8. Take a break from your laptop. Do you have other jobs you can work at for a bit that don’t involve using a computer? Several short breaks, where you can change your posture, is recommended over one long break.

Other sites offer more tips in proper and healthy laptop usage but I don’t have the luxury of having a secondary LCD monitor to plug in to my laptop to achieve that eye-level setup recommended when reading documents from the computer. For now, I’ll just adjust the height of my gas-lift chair when needed.

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